At times hilarious, at others heartwarming, this collection of short stories penned by one of Japan’s most talented artists is a perfect addition to any library! A young girl discovers that new glasses give her a whole new perspective on the world, a bunny-girl waitress learns to cope with her male customers with dignity, an introverted art student inspires her fellow club members even as she takes inspiration from them, and more! Fans of Mori will enjoy seeing concept designs and historical notes from her award-winning series, as well as Mori’s own brand of enthusiastic commentary throughout.
I haven’t read much of Kaoru Mori. I’ve only read A Bride’s Story so far. With CMX gone, her first series in English, Emma, is rather difficult to come by now. I do know about the series, and the praise it has received from other reviewers. What I wasn’t aware of, was just how much Mori likes her maids. This short story collections really makes her obsession with maids, and other things, very clear.
I’ve never been into maids, so being hit with so many at once was kind of a shock. The first short story, “Welcome to the Mansion, Master” didn’t do anything to make me want to change my mind about them. I know it was supposed be funny, but it didn’t click with me. “Fellows! and Me” showed the magic that maids seem to hold over fans, and really just made me roll my eyes. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like any of the maid stories. “Miss Claire’s Ordinary Daily Life” was funny, and “Maudlin Baker”, a story about an older maid and the teenage Master was sweet.
The stories that I enjoyed more were the first-person perspective stories. “The Swimsuit Bought Long Ago” and “Burrow Gentleman’s Club” are both told as if the reader were part of the story, with the characters looking directly at the reader, and responding to things not shown in the panels. I especially enjoyed “Burrow Gentleman’s Club”, with the bunny girl handling the gentlemen expertly and its hint at a little magic at the end.
Mori’s modern-day stories were alright. “To Come to See” is about a girl getting glasses for the first time. This story definitely reflects Mori’s obsession with glasses. My experience in class with my first pair was nothing like Yucchi’s. “Baggy-chan” was cute but forgettable, and “Sumire’s Flowers” was a different take on the connections people can make. The rest of the volume is made up of behind-the-scenes sketches and material for Emma mostly. There was a lot about corsets and English mansion fireplaces. There are a few sketches for A Bride’s Story, but there were much fewer.
Overall, Anything and Something is a good overview of Kaoru Mori’s work as a manga artist. The “Forward”, “Middleward”, and “Afterward” all give fun insights to Mori herself, and it’s these little bonuses that I enjoy the most from mangaka. I love seeing that they like to do when drawing manga, what pets they have, video games they play, and troubles they have with editors. That said, this book is really for the big Kaoru Mori fan. New readers can use it to sample her work, and get to know Mori better, but fans will appreciate it more, especially all the Victorian Era background information. Yen Press’ presentation of the title with a hardback cover and stitched pages also seems to appeal to the fan more than the casual reader. Still, if you’re curious about Kaoru Mori’s work, it’s worth a read.